Cubs Attracting Attention in Venezuela

Several Cubs minor leaguers who can be an MLB Rule 55 minor league free-agent (6YMiLFA) or who are eligible for selection in next month’s MLB Rule 5 draft are making noise in the Venezuelan Winter League (VWL).  


Switch-hitting utility IF-OF Marwin Gonzalez hit a combined 251/295/333 in 109 games (426 PA) at Daytona and Tennessee in 2010, but the 21-year old Venezuelan has put-up an eye-popping 370/469/543 line so far in the VWL, as he currently leads the league in doubles, is 3rd in walks and AVG, 4th in OBP, and 6th in SLG. Gonzo is a versatile player (he has played 3B, SS, 2B, 1B, LF, and CF in the minor leagues) with doubles power that could morph into some HR pop as he fills-out, and while it is very unlikely that he will be added to the Cubs 40-man roster by the 11/20 roster-filing deadline (he is eligible for selection in the upcoming Rule 5 Draft), the youngster is at least making the Cubs think twice about it. Just off his performance in the VWL (which is basically equivalent to AA), Gonzalez could draw some interest in the Rule 5 Draft from a low revenue/small market MLB club looking to populate their bench with young, cheap, versatile labor with some upside, and Marwin Gonzalez is certainly that.


After hitting 344/398/588 with 39 doubles, 13 HR, and 30 SB (3 CS) in 102 games (412 PA) at AA Tennessee in 2010, 24-year old right-handed hitting OF Brandon Guyer is presently hitting 348/444/435 in the VWL, and is tied for 3rd in the league in stolen bases and is 6th in OBP. Along with RHP Chris Archer, Guyer (the Cubs 2010 Minor League Player of the Year) is a virtual lock to get added to the Cubs 40-man roster later this month. (Reed Johnson and Cody Ross would probably be the current MLB players most-comparable to Guyer).


Squarely sitting atop the bubble as far as whether he will get added to the Cubs 40-man roster, 25-year old Marquez Smith is hitting 255/356/549 so far in the VWL, and is tied for 3rd in the league in HR. A college teammate of Cubs OF Tyler Colvin at Clemson, the stocky (5’10 215) Smith (who looks a bit like a fire plug) appeared to turn the corner in 2010, hitting 297/371/556 between AA Tennessee and AAA Iowa, while pounding out 20 HR and 28 doubles in 107 games (392 PA). Although he is slightly below-average defensively at the hot corner, Smith probably will have to make it to the big leagues as an everyday 3B because he lacks the athleticism and versatility needed to play other positions (he was tried at 2B, but it didn’t work out). If he can continue to display HR power, the Cubs might look at Smith as they begin to consider candidates to replace Aramis Ramirez post-2011.


25-year old 6’2 RHP Austin Bibens-Dirkx is 1-2 with a 1.90 ERA (8th in the VWL) and 1.10 WHIP (10th in the VWL) so far. ABD was rescued by the Cubs from independent ball in 2009 (the right-hander had been released by the Seattle Mariners out of Minor League Camp), and he pitched well at Peoria in 2009 (7-2 with a 2.09 ERA and 0.91 WHIP) before moving up to AA Tennessee and then to AAA Iowa this past season (where he was a rotation starter), going a combined 10-7 with a 3.78 ERA and 1.17 WHIP at the two stops. Because he was released previously in his career, Bibens-Dirkx was/is eligible to be an MLB Rule 55 minor league free-agent post-2010. But even if he has re-signed with the Cubs for 2011 (the official MLB Rule 55 minor league FA list should be released tomorrow), he would still be eligible for selection in the Rule 5 Draft, and off his performance at Tennessee and Iowa during the 2010 regular season and in the VWL so far post-2010, he could get a look from somebody. A Christian rock artist during the off-season, Bibens-Dirkx was a teammate of Cubs minor league LHP Chris Siegfried at the U. of Portland before getting drafted by the Mariners in the 16th round of the June 2006 draft.


Veteran 1B-OF Jason Dubois is tied for the VWL lead in HR, as the 31-year old hopes to land a Spring Training NRI from somebody in 2011. And although Dubois did what he was paid to do in 2010 (hitting 20 HR in just 71 games at AAA Iowa) it is very unlikely that he will return to the Cubs organization next season. The main reason the Cubs signed Doo-Bee last off-season was to provide a RH power bat at Iowa to help offset the three lefty-sluggers (Micah Hoffpauir, Brad Snyder, and Bryan Lahair), but since none of the three are likely to return to the I-Cubs in 2011 (Hoffpauir and Snyder are out of minor league options, and Lahair is a minor league FA), there is really no reason for the Cubs to bring Dubois back to Des Moines, either

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Comments

woo...the next crew of "we should have..."

Az Phil--

Random question, actually 2. Noticed on mlb.com that the Indians outrighted Marte (again).

This smells like the kind of low risk/high potential that JH usually leaps on, albeit usually with pitchers. I could see a scenario where the Cubs sign Marte to a minor league deal with a NRI to essentially give organizational competition to Vitters, with the winner taking over 3B on the big club when we trade Aram at the deadline (if not before).

Question 1: Should the Cubs do something like this? I'm pretty sure Aram is gone at the deadline if not before, and it seems we do have some depth at the hot corner in the minors, but somebody else's overhyped prospect on the cheap seems like not too bad an idea, but I want to hear your take.

Question 2: Okay, you think I'm crazy and it's a stupid idea, fine. But do you see Hendry doing it anyway??

Submitted by Tony S. on Sun, 11/07/2010 - 4:03pm.
Az Phil--

Random question, actually 2. Noticed on mlb.com that the Indians outrighted Marte (again).

This smells like the kind of low risk/high potential that JH usually leaps on, albeit usually with pitchers. I could see a scenario where the Cubs sign Marte to a minor league deal with a NRI to essentially give organizational competition to Vitters, with the winner taking over 3B on the big club when we trade Aram at the deadline (if not before).

Question 1: Should the Cubs do something like this? I'm pretty sure Aram is gone at the deadline if not before, and it seems we do have some depth at the hot corner in the minors, but somebody else's overhyped prospect on the cheap seems like not too bad an idea, but I want to hear your take.

Question 2: Okay, you think I'm crazy and it's a stupid idea, fine. But do you see Hendry doing it anyway??

================================================

TONY: I don't think the Cubs will sign Andy Marte this off-seson because they have Aramis Ramirez in Chicago, Marquez Smith at Iowa, and Josh Vitters at Tennessee, and so I doubt that the Cubs will look like a good destination to Marte and his agent. Now, if Ramirez was already gone and the Cubs were rounding up candidates to compete for the job, then I could see that happening. Just not now.

I do think the Cubs will sign a FA shortstop with MLB experience to a minor league contract and NRI to ST, though, to compete with Darwin Barney for the middle-infielder back-up job, with the loser becoming the starting SS at Iowa. It's also possible that the Cubs could trade Barney this off-season, because he could be a starting SS on some MLB clubs (like probably BAL, CLE, DET, HOU, KC, PIT, or STL), and perhaps could help the Cubs net a LH 1B or RHRP if they opt to trade to fill one of those needs instead of spending big bucks on a FA.

As I have mentioned here before, both Luke Scott (a left-handed power-hitting 1B-OF) and Joel Hanrahan (a RH set-up man with closer experience) are arbitration-eligible (Scott with Baltimore and Hanrahan with Pittsburgh) and either one probably could be had if the Cubs want to offer a couple or three of their MLB-ready auto-renewal guys with some upside. The Cubs have quite a few trading chips they can package together if a team with somebody the Cubs want is looking to fill multiple holes with young MLB-ready (or near-ready) players.

Phil-- Thanks!!

I know Luke Scott was discussed somewhere (BCB?) last winter, but would he really be worth a couple/3 auto-renewal guys? Sounds steep to me (unless it's mostly junk, like Barney + junk)

*edit Looked at Scott on BR, numbers don't look bad, although he's 33 next year. Better than Nick friggin Johnson, anyhow...

Submitted by Tony S. on Sun, 11/07/2010 - 4:41pm.
Phil-- Thanks!!

I know Luke Scott was discussed somewhere (BCB?) last winter, but would he really be worth a couple/3 auto-renewal guys? Sounds steep to me (unless it's mostly junk, like Barney + junk)

*edit Looked at Scott on BR, numbers don't look bad, although he's 33 next year. Better than Nick friggin Johnson, anyhow...

===================================

TONY S: Luke Scott is a proven major league power hitter, he is healthy, he can hit both LHP and RHP, he is under club control through the 2012 season, acquiring him won't require signing him to a multi-year contract, and he can also play corner OF if the Cubs want to play Geovany Soto at 1B on days he's not catching.

If Soto is just used as a catcher he'll be in the starting lineup maybe 125 games at most (if you're lucky), but play him at 1B on days he's not catching and you can get his bat into the lineup for 150+ games. Whether Soto sits on the bench or plays 1B on days he's not catching, the Cubs back-up catcher will still get at least 35-40 starts. So wouldn't it be a good idea to try and keep Soto in the lineup for as many games as possible if he's the Cubs best hitter?

Phil--

Great points, but I'm required by TCR law to say...

...how much good will Soto do batting 8th??? ;)

Submitted by Tony S. on Sun, 11/07/2010 - 5:40pm.
Phil--

Great points, but I'm required by TCR law to say...

...how much good will Soto do batting 8th??? ;)

============================

TTONY S: I fully understand the TCR Law as it pertains to Soto, but if he plays everyday (playing 1B on days he's not catching) I would bet he is more-likely to hit in the #4 or #5 slot (and stay there) than if he is used just as a catcher and sits on the bench one or two games per week.

BTW, I did want to mention that guys like Micah Hoffpauir and Sam Fuld have more value as trading chips than might be expected. Hoffpauir has hit 251/312/421 in 162 career MLB career games (exactly equivalent to one full season), and Fuld has hit 252/368/344 (plus offering Gold Glove defense, above-average speed, and savvy base-running) in 98 career MLB games. Not great, but not awful either. While neither Hoffpauir nor Fuld would be an everyday players on most teams, I can almost guarantee you that both will be on an MLB 25-man roster somewhere next year. Hoffpauir could be one element of a larger package for a Luke Scott (for example), and Fuld will be a decent 4th OF no matter where he ends up.

From everyhting I've read out there, the O's are power hungry this off season and are intent on adding a big bat at either 1B or 3B instead of dealing one like Scott.

For those of you who want to hear/see Austin Bibens-Dirkx soft-rocking it out:

http://www.myspace.com/austindirkx

Note: The page is a little out of date, as it mentions him as still being in the Mariners' organization.

For a little more cynical take on Christian Rock, there's this South Park episode:

http://www.southparkstudios.com/guide/episode...

I hope the pitching thing works out for him.

Overall, it seems like the Cubs system is deeper than it's been in years.

Let's make a trade!

for what's it's worth I saw Smith play against the local dynamo, the round rock express, and when I first noticed him I said, "oh dear, he's obviously just a AAA filler guy". He was beyond awful at third. But, it was just one game.

Then, I think he hit at least one HR. Maybe two. This guy has serious power. And it wasn't crap power. One, he pulled, ala Soriano, but the other he cranked the other way.

I really, really like this guy as a hitter.

Sounds like he could make a major league career as a backup 3B/1B and PH.

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